NEWS

Halifax Child Pornography Case Sees 2nd Man Plead Guilty

11/24/2014 04:15 EST | Updated 01/23/2015 05:59 EST
CP
HALIFAX - A second young man accused in a prominent child pornography case pleaded guilty in youth court Monday to distributing a sexually graphic image of a 15-year-old girl who later died following a suicide attempt.

The 19-year-old man, who cannot be identified because he was a minor at the time of the offence in the fall of 2011, was expected to start a scheduled four-day trial but entered a guilty plea to one count of distributing child pornography. He will be sentenced on Jan. 15.

The girl's parents said they weren't surprised by the plea but wished it had come earlier, adding that it didn't make it any easier to listen to the difficult facts of the case as the accused sat nearby on the prisoner's bench.

"We felt the evidence was already pretty strong ... but this should have happened in the first place," her father said outside Halifax youth court.

"It's difficult to be in the courtroom because you're angry. ... She's not there to see this happen. She's not there to see people held accountable for what they did to her."

Crown lawyer Alex Smith read an agreed statement outlining the facts of the high-profile case that garnered national attention following the girl's death last year.

A 20-year-old man also charged in the case was given a conditional discharge earlier this month after he pleaded guilty to making child pornography by taking a photo of the accused having sex with the girl. His identity is also protected because he was a minor at the time.

Smith described how the girl, who was 15 at the time, was at a house with two teen boys in November 2011 and had been drinking. One of the teen boys took a photo of the other having sex with the girl from behind as she vomited out a window.

The statement said the girl did not know the photo was being taken and did not give consent as the man was pressed up against her and giving two thumbs up while he smiled for the camera.

Smith said the accused who took the photo sent it to his friend who had sex with the girl. Smith said the latter then texted it to two young women, who then sent it out to "numerous persons, most of whom attended the same school" as the two accused and the girl. The judge agreed to seal the photo.

The girl, whose identity is protected by a mandatory publication ban, died after she was taken off life-support following a suicide attempt in the spring of 2013.

Her family says she was bullied for months as a result of the photo and have voiced their opposition to the publication ban that prevents her from being identified, saying it silences them from telling her story.

Her mother said outside court that the photo devastated her daughter.

"It took away her very essence of who she was," she said, wearing a T-shirt bearing the girl's name. "Once that photo appeared, she was never the same again."

Late Monday, a major news outlet in Halifax published her name despite the ban, saying it believes doing so is in the public interest given the widespread recognition of her name and the good that can come from free public debate over sexual consent and other elements of her story.

Critics of the ban have also named her on social media.

A review has been launched to examine how police and prosecutors in Nova Scotia handled the girl's allegations at first.

Initially, police said they looked into accusations of sexual assault and an inappropriate photo but after consulting with the province's Public Prosecution Service, they concluded there weren't enough grounds to lay charges.

A week after the girl died, police reopened their investigation after receiving what they said was new information.

Follow @alison_auld on Twitter.